Self Drive in the Icelandic Highlands

Julien Ratel
iceland highlands
Your Self Drive

From
1875€/pers
Duration
15 days / 14 nights

Discover the beauty of the Icelandic Highlands!

The otherworldly landscapes of this itinerary will give you the sensation that you’re exploring another planet and when it comes to Iceland’s isolated Central Highlands, this is not an exaggeration! To get there, a vehicle with four wheel drive is your only option: there’s no other way to cross the sandy deserts, drive over the ancient lava fields, ford the rivers, and accquire access to all of the other spectacular sites. This surreal world of arid wilderness, desert plains, delightful hot spring oases and volcanic mountain ranges will become a part of you. The experience of the Icelandic Highlands seems to fill the air with mythical spirits that may just trick you into thinking you really have left Earth.

This trip is available from July to September

The route
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Step 1

Reykjavík

Rental car pick up and drive to Reykjavík. Settle into your accommodation

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Step 2

Laugarvatn

Set off along the impressive Hvalfjördur or, whale fjord, until you reach the valley of Reykholt

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Step 3

Skagafjördur

The multicolored landscapes here are symptoms of both the glaciers and geothermal activity

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Step 4

Laugafell

Bathe in the Laugafell hotspring in the heart of Iceland

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Step 5

Mývatn

ere, you have the option to relax in an outdoor geothermal pool. and hikes in this surreal apocalyptic setting

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Ásbyrgi

End your day in the Ásbyrgi region and observe the surprising horseshoe shape of its canyon

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Askja

Continue to the Askja caldera in the middle of Ódadahraun’s lunar landscape, the desert of crimes, that owes its name to the criminals that hid there to escape the law

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Egilsstadir

You’ll come to the shores of the Lagarfljót Lake in the Egilsstadir region

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Step 9

Höfn

Fjords shape the east Icelandic coastline and in each one is nestled a little fishing village, protected by the winds by the fjord’s large cliffs.

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Skaftafell

Discover the majesty of Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull

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Step 11

Fjardrárgljúfur

Tjarnargígur Lake, the Fagrifoss waterfall and the Fjardrárgljúfur gorges are the next things you’ll see on this volcanic day

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Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar region is full of spectacular trails and enchanting landscapes

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Reykjavík

Return your rental car at Keflavik international airport and enjoy your flight home

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Your Self Drive in the Icelandic Highlands day by day itinerary

Day 1

Keflavik - Reykjavík

50 km. 1hr 
Arrival at Keflavik international airport. Rental car pick up and drive to Reykjavík. Settle into your accommodation. The rest of your first night is at your leisure in the world’s northernmost capital.

Overnight in Reykjavík. 

Day 2

Reykholt - Thingvellir - Laugarvatn

50 km. about 5hrs 

Pick up your rental car and set off along the impressive Hvalfjördur or, whale fjord, until you reach the valley of Reykholt. There you’ll find the hot water springs of Deildartunguhver reputed to be the fastest flowing in the Europe. Stop at the Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls. You’ll take the Kaldidalur 4WD road: along the western flank of the Langjökull glacier, it links the Reykholt valley with that of Thingvellir where you’ll observe a network of faults resulting from the oceanic rift.

Staying overnight in either the Laugarvatn or the Geysir region. 

Day 3

Geysir – Gullfoss - Skagafjördur

260 km about 6hrs 

Discover Geysir where the Strokkur geyser shoots out of the ground at regular intervals, then stop by the Gullfoss falls where the Hvítá river has created an impressive canyon. Following the trail of Kjölur, you’ll arrive at the Kerlingarfjöll mountain range, stuck between the Langjökull and Hofsjökull glaciers. The multicolored landscapes here are symptoms of both the glaciers and geothermal activity. Relaxing stop at the Hveravellir hot springs where you can dive right in!

Staying overnight in the Skagafjördur region. 

Day 4

Tröllaskagi – Akureyri – Laugafell

310 km about 6hrs 

Take a detour to see the wild coasts of Tröllaskagi, the peninsula of trölls, with the Arctic Ocean on one side and an imposing mountain range on the other. Pass through Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest city and the capital of the north, before driving back up a magnificent glacial valley on the high plateaus. Bathe in the Laugafell hotspring in the heart of Iceland.

Staying overnight in Laugafell either camping or in a mountain hut 
It is also possible to stay in a guesthouse in the Akureyri region. 

Day 5

Aldeyjarfoss – Gódafoss – Mývatn

180 km about 4hrs 

You’ll reach the Sprengisandur trail. Cross an austere and beautiful desert before coming to the incredible falls of Aldeyjarfoss and its strange necklace of basalt rock formations. A bit further, stop at the equally beautiful Gódafoss falls before discovering the surroundings of Lake Myvatn: Pseudocraters, explosion craters, recent lava flows and cauldrons of boiling mud. Discover some of the most surprising and interesting geological and geothermal manifestations in Iceland. Here, you have the option to relax in an outdoor geothermal pool. and hikes in this surreal apocalyptic setting.

Overnight in the Mývatn region. 

Day 6

Mývatn – Húsavík - Ásbyrgi

140 km about 2hrs 30m 

Explore Mývatn’s surroundings some more before heading off to the charming port of Húsavík. From here you have the option of going whale-watching and sightings are a near certainty. You’ll then tour the coast of the Tjörnes peninsula where you can see puffins performing aerial feats…(at least until mid-August). End your day in the Ásbyrgi region and observe the surprising horseshoe shape of its canyon. On one side of the canyon is a thick birch forest that the elves are said to protect a pond that reflects 100 metre cliffs…Truly enchanting!

Overnight in the Ásbyrgi region. 

Day 7

Dettifoss – Herdubreid - Askja

180 km about 4hrs 

Today you enter Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, that extends north of Ásbyrgi to the Dettifoss waterfalls, the most powerful in Europe. Here, there are spectacular gorges that you can discover from many points. At Hljódaklettar, the echo cliffs, you can access its red scoria craters. Continue to the Askja caldera in the middle of Ódadahraun’s lunar landscape, the desert of crimes, that owes its name to the criminals that hid there to escape the law. Herdubreid, the mountain of broad shoulders looms over this vast volcanic desert. You are in another world!

Staying the night in Askja, in a mountain hut or camping. 
It is possible to stay in a guesthouse in the Mývatn region. 

Day 8

Snæfell – Egilsstadir

200 km about 4hrs 

On the next leg of your trip, Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, dominates the southern horizon. You travel across desert-like lands between the Kverkfjöll and Snæfell mountain ranges. On the way, discover the gorges of Hafrahvammsgljúfur and the Laugavalladalur hot water springs where nature offers you a pleasant open air shower! You’ll come to the shores of the Lagarfljót Lake in the Egilsstadir region. The tall Hengifoss waterfall (120m) and Hallormstaðaskógur, a rare Icelandic forest are sure to impress you more than the “Icelandic Loch Ness monster” said to dwell in the Lagarfljót.

Overnight in the Egilsstadir region. 

Day 9

Eastern Fjords– Höfn

260 km about 5hrs 

Fjords shape the east Icelandic coastline and in each one is nestled a little fishing village, protected by the winds by the fjord’s large cliffs. You’ll take this magnificent coastal road that leads you from one fjord to the next. Stop wherever you are most tempted; to watch the seals of Lónsvík at play or swans in the bay of Álftafjördur. (depending on the season) Or an exhibit about Iceland’s French fishermen in Fáskrúdsfjördur, the mineral and rock collection of the Petra museum at Stödvarfjördur, or the charming port of Djúpivogur. Thanks to your 4WD vehicle, you are even able to explore the extremities of the Lónsvík bay and reach the multicolored Stafafell Mountains.

Staying overnight in the Höfn region. 

Day 10

Jökulsárlón - Skaftafell

200 km about 4hrs 

Discover the majesty of Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. At the glacial lagoon of Jökulsárlón, you are emerged in a truly arctic landscape composed of icebergs and impressive glaciers, all the while being watched by curious seals. Further along, to the west, is the Skaftafell National Park with its Svartifoss waterfall and its strange basalt rocks. Above you, with its head maybe in the clouds, sits Hvannadalshnúkur at, 2110m it is Iceland’s highest peak.

Staying overnight in the Kirkjubæjarklaustur region. 

Day 11

Laki – Tjarnargígur - Fjardrárgljúfur

120 km about 5hrs 

From Kirkjubæjarklaustur, move along to the Laki region, where the biggest volcanic eruption since humans have populated the island took place, leaving behind enchanting lunar landscapes. Take a spectacular trail to a line of 120 craters extending over 25 km. The black lava and green moss you’ll find here are a picturesque contrast. Tjarnargígur Lake, the Fagrifoss waterfall and the Fjardrárgljúfur gorges are the next things you’ll see on this volcanic day.

Overnight in the Kirkjubæjarklaustur region. 

Day 12

Eldgjá – Langisjór – Landmannalaugar

180 km about 6hrs 

Cross the Fjallabak nature reserve, where you’ll discover some of the country’s wildest and most spectacular sites. First, you’ll see the Eldgjá rift from where the Ófærufoss falls crash down. Next is one of Iceland’s hidden gems: Langisjór, or “long sea”, a body of water lost in a black sand desert and mountains with mossy slopes. Last on your agenda is the multicoloured Landmannalaugar mountain chain and its hot water river, perfect for a therapeutic soak!

Staying overnight in Landmannalaugar (camping or in a mountain hut). It is possible to stay in a guesthouse near the Hekla volcano. 

Day 13

Landmannalaugar

Wether around the Veidivötn lakes, on Hrafntinnusker’s volcanic plateaus, on the rim of the Ljótipollur crater or at the foot of the Hekla volcano, the Landmannalaugar region is full of spectacular trails and enchanting landscapes. You have a full day to discover this region, widely recognized as one of Iceland’s most beautiful. We would also suggest for you to leave your car behind in order to undertake one of Landmannalaugar’s magnificent hikes.
At the end of the day, you’ll be able to take a bath in the hot river nearby the mountain hut.

Overnight in Landmannalaugar (camping or in a mountain hut). It is possible to stay in a guesthouse near the Hekla volcano.

Day 14

Thjórsárdalur – Reykjavík

220 km about 4hrs 

Return to Reykjavík going around the flanks of the Hekla volcano and its recent lava flows. Continue through the valley of the Thjórsá river. You’ve seen many waterfalls during your trip, but we’ve saved one of the best for last: Háifoss, and its neighboring waterfall Grannifoss, that plunge down 122m into a magnificent canyon. Continue along the trail with its many creeks before driving through the western countryside and delighting in the volcanic plateaus of Hellisheidi during your return to Reykjavík Rental car return and overnight in Reykjavik.

Day 15

Reykjavik – Keflavik

50km about 1 hr 

Return your rental car at Keflavik international airport and enjoy your flight home.

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Your accomodation during your Self Drive in the Icelandic Highlands

Take your pick: hotels, mountain huts, campsites…

The vast majority of Icelandic establishments are modest, but clean and comfortable. Most of the guesthouses, farmhouses and hotels offer catering. Your accommodation will fall under whichever category of establishment you choose. There is also a camping option (all camping equipment provided). With our voucher system, you’ll be able to camp when and where you want, giving you as much freedom as you want to adapt your itinerary based on the weather as well as your own location choices.

We recommend that your book your Iceland self-drive as soon as possible in order to have to the most choice when it comes to the establishment itself and the type of accommodation you stay in.

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Price per person from 1875 to 4450€

In guesthouses, farmhouses or countryside hotels, from mid-June to mid-September 

  • Bedrooms with a private bathroom: from 3450 Euros to 4450 Euros/pers. depending on the season
  • Bedrooms without a private bathroom: from 2825 Euros to 3475 Euros/pers. depending on the season

In mountain huts or hostels, from mid-June to mid-September 
In shared or private rooms: from 2475 Euros to 3100 Euros/pers. depending on the season

Camping, from June to August 
With equipment provided: from 1875 Euros to 2450 Euros/pers. depending on the season.

Final price depending on the number of persons, the season and the vehicle category

Included in this travel

  • Transfer to and from Keflavik International Airport and Reykjavík accommodations
  • 2 nights in Reykjavík in the double room of a guesthouse, with breakfast included
  • 12 nights in the countryside in a double room (private or shared), or in a campsite depending on your choice
  • Breakfasts (if staying in guesthouses, farmhouses or countryside hotels)
  • A trip folder including road maps and a road-book describing your detailed day by day itinerary
  • 13 day rental of a category G 4WD vehicle, unlimited distance, 25.5% VAT, CDW insurance and second driver included
  • For the hostel, mountain hut and camping options: a stove for two, kitchen utensils, a cooler, a thermos, and a dishwashing kit
  • For the camping option: one tent for two and one camping mattress per person

Not included in this travel

  • International flights in and out of Iceland, airport taxes and travel insurance
  • Meals, drinks and personal expenses
  • Breakfasts in hostels, mountain huts or campsites
  • Fuel for your car
  • Optional visits and activities.- Admission to sites that charge for visits
  • Super CDW insurance and gravel protection (SCDW) including excess liability charges
  • For the hostel, mountain hut and camping options: a sleeping bag available on site if ordered before your departure
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Friendly advice for your Self Drive in the Icelandic Highlands:

  • Book as soon as possible to make sure that the limited accommodation in Iceland’s interior will have space available.
  • When exploring the Central Highlands, forgo more comfortable accommodation and opt for mountain huts or camping, cheaper and closer to the stunning natural sites.
  • Save a couple hundred euros per person by leaving after August 15th to take advantage of the lower 4X4 rental prices that comes with the end of the summer season.
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Your Self Drive

From
1875€/pers
Duration
15 days / 14 nights
Highlights

  • The breathtaking landscapes of the Icelandic interior have no equivalent in the world!
  • The Askja volcano and its crater lake, Viti, provide a surreal swim
  • The itinerary includes a complete exploration of the Fjallabak nature reserve and its surroundings, including Laki, Langisjór and Veidivötn.
  • The hot water springs at Hveravellir, Laugafell, Landmannalaugar and many others
  • A trip that combines everything Iceland has to offer: immersion into the unsettled wilderness of its interior, along with the culture of its coastal regions
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